White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dodged questions from MSNBC's Chris Hayes during a televised interview Friday, saying she would not address "rumors."
When asked about reports that the Department of Homeland Security was considering bringing back "family detentions," something President Joe Biden criticized during his 2020 presidential campaign, Jean-Pierre said she has already addressed the issue and would not comment on "rumors."
"So what I want to be very clear here — and I've answered this question as you know, Chris, many times in the briefing room; and we as an administration have as well — we are not going to certainly comment on rumors or conversations that are out there that people are reporting on," she said during the interview. "Those are rumors. What we are going to promise is that we're going to do this: We're going to move forward with a, with this kind of systems, immigration system, which has been gutted, really, truly gutted by the last administration."
The New York Times reported March 6 that the DHS is considering a return to the practice of detaining migrant families that cross the border illegally, which would mark a stark policy reversal after Biden stopped the policy that saw children removed from their parents.
"Ending the inhumane practice of family detention has been one of the only positive immigration policy decisions of the Biden administration," Leecia Welch, a lead lawyer in the case that led to the 1997 Flores settlement, which establishes time limits for detaining children and minimum standards for holding facilities, told the Times. "It is heartbreaking to hear there could be a return to the Trump-era use of this practice."
Instead of directly answering the question, Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration has been working to fix the "gutted" immigration system left to them by the administration of former President Donald Trump. She then criticized Republicans in Congress for not developing a more "humane" answer to the growing southern border crisis, which has seen record numbers of crossings each month since Biden took office in January 2021.
When pressed on the issue, she said that DHS is working out how to deal with the end of Title 42 deportations, a policy of sending migrants back to their home countries in the wake of the COVID-19 health emergency enacted during Trump's administration in 2020, but that she does not want to address what those discussions within the agency might entail.
"I think what you're asking me, Chris, is to speak to rumors that are out there," she said. "And that is not something that we're going to speak to any rumored conversation. The moment that I talk about rumors or conversations that are out there, then it opens up a whole other conversation. So just want to be mindful of that."
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